Thursday, December 08, 2005

dueling green berets

both adam bernstein of the washington post and stephen miller of the new york sun wrote obits for william p. yarborough, a retired army lieutenant general who convinced president john f. kennedy to put green berets on the heads of american special forces during the vietnam era.

their summaries of yarborough's life appeared in their respective papers on thursday, dec. 8, 2005.

if you have time to read adam's obit for the 93-year-old military man and steve's summary of the historic dude's life - each is approximately 1,000 words - it's a great opportunity to compare and learn from how two talented obit writers present the same basic facts in slightly different fashion.

yarborough's story provide some lessons in military and political history that are especially meaningful today with all the controversy about the war in iraq.

regarding yarborough's horrific "friendly fire" episode of ww2, adam writes:

The invasion of Sicily in 1943 provided Gen. Yarborough, then a battalion commander, with one of his grimmest memories: the downing of 23 troop transport planes and 410 men by Allied antiaircraft fire. The poor coordination among air, ground and naval forces led the Allies to mistake the U.S. transport planes for German bombers that had shortly before flown over the area.

After seeing wounded paratroopers leaping from crippled aircraft, Gen. Yarborough said: "They all jumped. Every man in my plane jumped although some could hardly stand up. I haven't found them all yet, but every man jumped."

steve writes of yarborough's role in spying on american civilians in the states during the vietnam war:

In 1971, Yarborough became embroiled in controversy when it became clear that he was involved in an intelligence operation that collected information on domestic groups involved in protesting the war in Vietnam. There were no charges of wrongdoing, but feathers were ruffled when it was found that intelligence had been collected not only on groups like the Ku Klux Klan and the Black Panthers, but also on the Daughters of the American Revolution.

of course, both adam and steve wrote about both of these incidents. and both of them addressed these facts in ways that make history real to modern-day readers.

hats off - or should i say "green berets off? - to two of our favorite grimsters!

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